Ian Bridge from No5 Chambers has been instructed by Keith Wood of Lewis Nedas in several cases involving applications for the committal of alleged contemnors. The High Court has clarified the public funding arrangements for those facing a committal application.
It has been unclear since the commencement of LASPO how those facing imprisonment for contempt can obtain a representation order. The Legal Aid Agency routinely rejects any application for civil funding. It does not appear from the application form CDS 14 for criminal funding that that is the appropriate route either. Nonetheless, even an impecunious defendant facing prison for contempt must be entitled to representation.
The issue has been recently settled in Kings Lynn v Bunning 2013 EWHC 3390 (QB). An application on CDS 14 should now succeed. The limit on funding can be raised on application in an appropriate case.
Bridge appeared in the recently reported decision in EWQ V Nathalie Jansen  EWHC 894 (QB). The High Court has reaffirmed the requirement that proceedings — particularly those where the liberty of the citizen is at stake — should take place in public.
In ruling on an application to commit on a privacy injunction (so called super-injunction), the High Court strictly followed the practice guidance given by the Lord Chief Justice and the president of the Family Division on 3 May 2013, publicly naming the party committed for contempt, delivering a judgment in public with reasons for the committal and ordering that a transcript of the judgment be made available at public expense.
Any party minded to pursue an order for committal on the alleged breach of a privacy injunction should have in mind that any application to commit is likely to be substantially heard in public and the name of the contemnor will be published and that the existence of court proceedings will be exposed. Once an application to commit is made supported by evidence, it is not within the gift of the applicant to withdraw the proceedings. The victim in such cases is the court rather than the applicant.
Applicants should also consider that the committal proceedings do not only concern liability; the appropriate penalty must also be determined. It is difficult to imagine circumstances where albeit that a breach is made out on the evidence there will not also be issues of fact relevant to determine the seriousness of the breach and mitigating circumstances that will need to be established. There is a real risk that such matters will be aired in public.